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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by Jo Clifton
Resolution: Wall builders need not apply
Led by Council Member Delia Garza, five Council members are sponsoring a resolution directing the city manager to study the potential impacts on Austin of construction of President Donald Trump’s threatened wall between the United States and Mexico.
According to the resolution, President Trump’s executive order directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “to take steps to plan, design and build a physical wall along the entire international border between the United States and Mexico, (is) in direct conflict with the core values” of the United States as identified on the Statue of Liberty.
In addition, the resolution asks the city manager to develop a policy to give that opposition some teeth by applying the policy to the city’s contracting policies and procedures.
If City Council adopts that resolution on Thursday as expected, Austin will join San Diego, Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona, in telling companies that do business with the city that they should not be helping to design, construct or finance such a wall.
The resolution includes language directing the manager to consider “all legally permissible options and all relevant operational impacts to city departments.”
Garza said during the presidential campaign the president used “a lot of political rhetoric” in talking about a proposed border wall, “which would not make Texas or any other state safer, or reduce crime.”
Many people thought it was just a political talking point during a presidential election, she said, but that, “coupled with the president’s description of Mexicans as criminals and rapists, is extremely offensive to me as I am Mexican-American.”
“I thought it was important to send a message to our community that we support them and we are welcoming, and we can choose not to do business with a company that I would think is not a good community partner,” Garza said.
Co-sponsors of the resolution include Council members Pio Renteria, Greg Casar and Ann Kitchen and Mayor Steve Adler.
Renteria told the Austin Monitor, “I think we’re sending Mexico the wrong message. We should be building bridges instead of walls.
“Our infrastructure is crumbling here in the United States and I just can’t see why we’re investing in a wall,” especially since “the Mexicans now are not coming over. Their economy is booming. They’re almost at full employment. There’s no slowing down that economy there,” said Renteria. “I think we’re just wasting our money. … And it’s sending a message to Mexico that we’re not going to be very good business partners.”
According to The Texas Tribune, “Texas is Mexico’s number one trade partner. From January to November of 2017, the Laredo and El Paso customs districts saw $270.2 billion and $85.5 billion in two-way trade with Mexico, respectively, according to WorldCity, a Florida-based economics think tank that uses U.S. Census data to track trade patterns.”
Renteria said people in Mexico laugh at us about the idea of investing money in a wall. “They’re not even going to bother to try to come over. It’s just dumb.”
Garza said the city of Seattle took its money out of Wells Fargo banks because Wells Fargo was involved in financing the Dakota Access pipeline. “So other cities have for similar reasons stopped giving their business to a company because of a political issue,” she said.
Council has previously adopted resolutions condemning hateful speech and violent action directed at immigrants, people of color and various religions. In addition, Council last year committed extra money to provide funding for immigrant legal services. Austin also joined other cities in pursuing litigation to fight state and federal anti-immigrant policies.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.